Nebraska’s Secretary of State loses attempt to block gambling


Gamblers in the Cornhusker State will now have the rightful opportunity to decide for themselves whether to allow gambling in their back yards. Nebraska lawmakers have spent the past several years trying to push forward expanded gambling measures, but have consistently run into issues. This year was finally the year that real progress was made, and the state was set for the public to vote on the subject this November. However, Secretary of State Bob Evnen stepped in at the last minute and tried to thwart the effort, using lame excuses as his reasons for pulling the measure. However, it’s now Nebraska Supreme Court 1, Evnen 0, as his attempts have been rejected by the state’s high court. 

nebraskas-secretary-of-state-loses-attempt-to-block-gamblingEvnen had tried to assert that the language of the ballot measure was “misleading” and, instead of asking for it to be changed, simply decided to pull the measure completely. He also asserted that, should the measure be approved by voters, it would lead to “illegal” tribal gaming operations, despite the lack of any autonomous jurisdiction over the tribes. The timing of his efforts was extremely suspect, as the group lobbying for the ballot entry, Keep the Money in Nebraska (KMN), had turned in its petition months ahead of the deadline. However, Evnen tried to block the measure only days before the ballot deadline was to be reached.

Evnen’s efforts were futile, though, as the Supreme Court rejected his decision, but just barely. Four justices ruled against him; three with him, so there is still a lot of insecurity regarding whether the state’s voters will approve any gambling measure this November. However, at least they will now be given the chance to make the decision, which should have been in their hands the entire time. 

Drew Niehaus, a spokesperson for KMN, said in a statement, “We’re thrilled that the 475,000 Nebraskans who signed the petitions get the chance to vote on the initiatives this fall. On a bigger scale, the decision affirms the importance of the referendum process within Nebraska politics.” He added that Evnen’s office was to draw the ballot numbers yesterday, and that it was set to draw ballot numbers as a result. He asserted, Once we have that information, we’ll be able to inform our voters on how to continue to support the initiatives during the election this fall. Nebraskans have made it very clear that want to keep their money in Nebraska.”

Opponents will continue to fight the effort. The anti-gambling expansion group Gambling With The Good Life has been one of the most vocal over the years, and one of its board members, Pat Loontjer, told via an email, “I am certainly not happy about it. It was sooooo close. We will do what we have done successfully for the past 25 years and that is to use our Grassroots efforts to inform the voters and defeat this thing. We are the ‘Good Life State’ and we don’t want to become the ‘Gambling State.’”

Maryland, Florida, California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey and plenty other states in the U.S. allow gambling – and the number is growing – and not one has ever become known as a “gambling state,” with the possible exception of Nevada. The continued rhetoric by anti-gambling groups that gambling is a sin or only results in addiction shows how little they actually understand the activity and, as they say (with a nod to Alexander Pope), a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.